Over the past decade the South China Sea has once more transformed into a hotbed of tension. China’s unprecedented island-building campaign, military build-up and uncompromising sovereignty claims have plunged the region into ebullition and anxiety. Disqualifying most of China's claims and actions in the region, the recent ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal, far from appeasing the situation, has added fuel to the fire. In a latest twist, the Philippines, the most reliable long-term ally of the United States in the region, has, under the mercurial leadership of President Duterte, heightened the confusion by engaging into a sudden rapprochement with China.